Stray thoughts on the Northerns

Chris Doorly gives the view from the south...

The 2010 Flying Fifteen Northern Championships took place in Strangford Lough and were hosted by Portaferry Sailing Club, with nearly 30 boats participating. As usual, the welcome and hospitality were great and very appreciated by those who travelled, especially the ‘Fifty Somethings’ that found themselves locked out of their accommodation in Strangford on Friday night.

A couple of other crews were led astray, apparently by Andrew’s mother, who lives nearby, and turned up on Saturday much the worse for wear. Poor Tom and Joe were left scratching their heads and racing hadn’t even started!

Saturday morning, we all woke up to a force 6 gale after light winds were forecast. After an hour's postponement, we headed out and were also assisted by a 7-knot tide under us! There we met up with the rest of the fleet who had launched from ‘the other side’.

Race 1: the tide was flooding and the winds had settled to a force 3 from N-NW. After a keenly fought start, the fleet got away at the first time of asking. Gorman/Doorly (NYC) headed straight out on starboard tack while most of the fleet tacked out towards the rushing tide in the middle. Tide wasn’t everything and Gorman led at the windward mark followed by Martin/Murray (SLSC).

On the second beat the boats stuck to what worked on the first beat, but Gorman got a couple of knocks at the end and Martin got around the weather mark in first place. Martin finished first with Gorman a close second followed by Gerry Reilly (SSC) in third place.

Race 2: the tide was less of an influence and those who headed inshore to the left came out in front, led by McCleery/Dougan (KYC). With his knowledge of the Lough, he held on for a win, followed by Martin in second, McKee third and Gorman fourth. A brave second beat by our FFI rep Mr Green and our President Mr Mulligan got them into fifth place at the weather mark but, alas, the remainder of the fleet had no respect for titles and they were not able to hold their position.

The club put on a great dinner and even those on ‘the other side’ made the journey, safely driven by captain Andrew McCleery. The dinner was so good some of the crew ensured it was washed down well with plenty of the local brew. Tom and Joe joined in with their crews!

Race 3: As is typical of the Lough we woke up to completely different conditions, with a flat calm sea, and wondered if we would get any racing in. Slowly, as we rigged the boats, the wind filled in from W-NW and we made our way to the racing waters just off Killyleagh. The winds were light and flukey and, with the weather mark tucked up at the village, perhaps a conspiracy by ‘the other side’. Regardless, it made for very changeable conditions as we approached the weather mark. Those who were at the pin and went inshore just came out in front at the weather mark, led by Lavery/O’Brien (NYC).

It could easily have been so different with various boats appearing to be in the lead at different times depending on the wind shifts. As those behind fought for places in the shifts and covered each other, Lavery increased his lead for a convincing win, Chamberlain was second with McCleery third, Gorman and Martin were back in sixth and seventh and thankful for it.

Race 4: With all to play for, a number of boats could win the title, including Lavery, McCleery, Gorman and Martin and, with the wind dying off and the shifty conditions, nothing was guaranteed. The wind disappeared completely and after an hour of waiting the forecasted breeze could be seen coming down the Lough from the north.

The race officer fired off the gun and competitors got ready to sail the final race — except the wind never reached the start area by the time the start gun went! As boats slowly started those who got to the right, where the wind was, got the jump on the others and with the wind from the right the weather mark became a fetch.

Reilly was first at the weather mark, followed by Martin, Meagher and Gorman. As the lead boats were beating back up through the fleet it was very disturbing, particularly as there were some great luffing duals going on on the reach downwind in what was now a force 4-5.

Martin moved up to first downwind on the second lap and he kept the lead to take the race and deservedly the title for the fourth year in a row! McCleery finished second overall with Gorman a point behind in third place.

The silver and bronze fleet were close affairs (see results, to come). Competition in the fleet is as keen as ever, especially as the regional events are part of a qualifying series for places for the Irish team at next years World Championships in Hayling Island. It was great to see Roger and Neil out with their new toys and amazingly they survived unscathed — there is always next time boys!

Darren Martin thanked the club, the sponsors and his fellow competitors for a most enjoyable event.

News Stray thoughts on the Northerns